Tag Archives: Music

Best of 2014: Top 10 Albums

These are the top 10 albums of 2014. Collect them all, while the recording industry still makes them! Also click on the album art for a link to the Spotify Stream.

*Honorable Mentions: Seeds (TV on the Radio), Nikki Nack (tUnE-yArDs), Broke with Expensive Taste (Azealia Banks), Run the Jewels 2 (Run the Jewels), Oxymoron (Schoolboy Q), Honest (Future), No Labels 2 (Migos), Tough Love (Jessie Ware), Hell Can Wait EP (Vince Staples) White Women (Chromeo)

10. They Want My Soul / Spoon / Loma Vista

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I have run out of interesting ways to say “minimalist.”

9. My Krazy Life / YG / Def Jam

YG-deluxe

This album functions almost as a companion piece to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012). But where Kendrick’s protagonist plays the observer and reluctant participant in the carnage around him, YG plays the charming asshole, gleefully telling you step-by-step how to properly execute a home invasion.

8. 1989 / Taylor Swift / Big Machine

Nostalgia

I think I’ve said all I have to say.

7. Paperwork / T.I. / Grand Hustle

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T.I. skirts the pratfalls typical of rappers, who have an annoying habit of making terrible “sequels” to their most successful albums.

6. St. Vincent / St. Vincent / Loma Vista

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Artsy progger who actually remembers to write actual songs.

5. My Everything / Ariana Grande / Republic

Ariana-Grande-My-Everything-2014

Disney princess whispering over slick and catchy production.

4. Aquarius / Tinashe / RCA

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No one is driving in her lane right now.

3. Cadillactica / Big K.R.I.T. / Def Jam

cadillactica-cover-art

K.R.I.T. has always worn his influences on his sleeves (OutKast, 8 Ball & MJG, UGK, Three 6 Mafia). But he’s finally synthesized the all into something distinctly his, declaring himself “King of the South” in the process.

2. LP1 / FKA twigs / Young Turks

lp1

Lots of slow burning sensual beats on display here. It’s a wonder that they manage to keep up with the sexually vulnerable (“when I trust you we can do it with the lights on”) and aggressive (“I can fuck you better than her”) lyrics wrapped around them.

1. Beyonce / Beyonce / Columbia

beyonce

No one, not even Taylor Swift, owned the last year like Beyonce. She made $112M, became the most famous brand ambassador for feminism, and released the dopest album of her career. She even had the best response to her most embarrassing public moment: Sometimes shit goes down when it’s a billion dollars on an elevator.

Here, she runs the gamut of human emotion: love, lust, jealously, ***flawlessness. All while not forgetting that pop music is supposed to be fun. I can only pray that no one has filmed me listening to this album while I think I’m alone.

Taylor Swift’s New York Sanitation

Nostalgia
Nostalgia

This week 24-year old pop superstar and New York Global Ambassador Taylor Swift dropped 1989, her highly anticipated fifth studio album. I like it. It is a great album. Catchy, polished, well-crafted song writing. I’ve been listening to it a lot.

There’s a ton of good stuff here. “Blank Space,” “Style,” “All You Had to Do Was Stay,” are the best kind of earworms. Even “Shake it Off” is infectious (like Ebola, according to one friend). And “New Romantics” ends the record on a strong note. Nearly every song is a pop music banger.

But really I just want to talk about this album opener, “Welcome to New York.”

This song is absolutely grating.

It is but one more addition to a long list of paeans to the Big Apple. It instantly recalls New York’s last great anthem (which is already a half-decade old). Of course I’m talking about Jay Z’s 2009 hit, “Empire State of Mind.” The first time I heard it I detested it. It was mawkish and cloying, faux-inspirational. Grantland’s Alex Pappademas put it best:

It’s Jay’s sentimental streak teaming up with his bottomless cynicism to beat you over the head with a foam Yankees no. 1 finger full of silver dollars. It’s not a song, it’s a Statue of Liberty keychain, a double-decker bus tour of famous crack spots that ends at Magnolia Cupcakes, a silver shovel throwing dirt on a mass grave full of poor people.

It’s almost as if he knew he’d be performing it at the World Series as he wrote it. But somehow I came around on “Empire.” Maybe because it’s catchy. And maybe because even though this song is basically a tourism board approved jingle, it does have subversive references to stash spots, drug dealing and at least acknowledges that everything isn’t all good in the city and hey, McDonald’s!

And while Jay hits you with a cynical radio jab, Taylor commits her own act of violence here. Though her weapon of choice is a sledgehammer of naive optimism whacking you flush on your right temple. No one doubts Taylor’s sincerity. It’s not hard to imagine Swift fresh off her plane from Nashville, hopping in her cab limo and finishing writing this song before the end of her ride from JFK to her new apartment down in TriBeCa.

And melody-wise, the song isn’t half bad. But really, the rub comes at the chorus:

Welcome to New York
Welcome to New York
It’s been waiting for you!

This is a lie. New York most certainly has not been waiting for you. In fact, New York City does not give a single solitary fuck if you come there or not. New York does not care about you. It was there (and great) hundreds of years before you and it will likely be there (and great) long after your bones are resting in the cold hard ground. I moved from New York 18 months ago and so far I haven’t received one phone call from New York asking me to come back because it misses me.

Presuming that New York has been waiting for you is like me crashing a party at Beyonce’s house and then apologizing to everyone there for being late.

This song is practically unrecognizable to a rapidly increasing size of New York’s population. It certainly isn’t recognizable to me. This is not Chinatown Bus music. This is not broken radiator music. This is not fifth floor walk-up music. This is not rent court music. It’s not even empty out your savings account to cover your broker fee because your student loan money hasn’t come in yet music. No, this is post-Sex and the City, pre-Great Recession music.

It’s not the New York of the overeducated and underemployed. If that’s the New York you’re looking for, you want Awkwafina’s “NYC Bitche$,” the anti- “Welcome to New York.”

No, “Welcome to New York” is a romantic song devoid of any allusion to struggle. Since its release last week a lot of writers and creative types have panned it, which isn’t surprising. Because if anyone knows what it’s like to struggle in New York City, it’s a writer or creative type. But this song isn’t for them. It was penned by someone who’s moved there after already experiencing wild success; someone who’s sold over 30 million albums worldwide and stands to earn $64 million in 2014, alone.

But no matter how much I hate this song, we all know how this ends. In ten years, you’ll hear it playing over a montage from Central Park West, the 100 million dollar grossing rom-com starring a rehabilitated Amanda Bynes. And then Swift plays it to a sold out Citi Field when the Mets make the World Series.

Of course I’m kidding. The Mets will never make the World Series. Then again, anything is possible in Taylor Swift’s New York.